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Kendrick Perkins on Erik Spoelstra: ‘He’s the best damn coach in the game today’

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  • Updated: January 14, 2022

Erik Spoelstra Miami Heat

ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins offered high praise for Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, saying that Spoelstra is “the best damn coach in the game today.”

SPOACH Of The Year!

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— Santi (@SantiCortes305) January 14, 2022

“Miami is still sitting there at the top and you add a healthy Bam [Adebayo], a team that went to the finals two years ago,” Perkins said. “I mean it speaks volumes about Erik Spoelstra, and by the way, he’s the best damn coach in the game today.”

One example of how respected the 51-year-old Spoelstra is can be seen by his lengthy tenure as head coach of the Heat. Spoelstra is in his 14th season in that role with the Heat and has only had two losing seasons.

Over the course of four seasons from 2010 to 2014, Spoelstra managed to lead the Heat to four consecutive trips to the finals, winning consecutive NBA titles in 2012 and 2013.

While critics pointed to the fact that Spoelstra had the luxury of having a trio of top superstars on his team, the mentor still managed to get the most out of his talent during that memorable span.

Perkins’ mention of the Heat’s trip to the NBA Finals in 2020 was another of Spoelstra’s impressive efforts. Playing within the NBA bubble in Orlando, Spoelstra led the underdog Heat to an Eastern Conference title and a berth in the finals.

This season, despite Adebayo’s early-season injury and continuing COVID-based issues, Spoelstra has led the team to a 26-15 record. That’s currently tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat have won 12 of their last 16 contests, including their last three games. They’ll go for four in a row on Friday night when they host the Atlanta Hawks.

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Bears hire Matt Eberflus as head coach in 2022

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The Chicago Bears are the second team to have a new head coach on Thursday as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the hire of Matt Eberflus. The news of the hire follows shortly after reports indicated the Denver Broncos were hiring Nathaniel Hackett to fill their head coach vacancy. Eberflus is leaving his position as the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive coordinator to join the Bears.

Eberflus, 51, began his coaching career at Toledo in 1992 as a student assistant coach, then continued in 1993 as a graduate assistant. For the 1994 and 1995 season, he was Toledo’s recruiting coordinator and outside linebacker coach, dropping the recruiting coordinator role in 1996. He continued to work at Toledo in 1999 when he was named the defensive backs coach, moving to Missouri in 2001 as their defensive coordinator. In 2009, he moved to the NFL as the Cleveland Browns’ linebackers coach. He joined the Dallas Cowboys in 2011 as their linebacker coach, then added passing game coordinator responsibilities in 2016. He joined the Colts as their defensive coordinator in 2018.

Chicago hired former Kansas City Chiefs executive Ryan Poles as their new general manager on Tuesday.

The Bears were believed to be high on hiring former Colts and Detroit Lions head coach (and Dolphins assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach) Jim Caldwell or Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, but chose to go with Eberflus. The Miami Dolphins are thought to have Quinn high on their list of potential candidates to be the replacement for Brian Flores, though reports have indicated Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is the favorite for the job. Eberflus was not on the known list of candidates for the Dolphins this year.

For more on the Bears and the hire of Eberflus, check out Windy City Gridiron.

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Broncos hiring Nathaniel Hackett as head coach

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The Denver Broncos are set to hire Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their next head coach, according to a report from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. According to SB Nation’s Broncos site, Mile High Report, Hackett was the only one of the Broncos’ 10 candidates for their top coaching position to conduct a second interview. He was scheduled to conduct a second interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but will now join the Broncos instead.

Hackett, 42, spent the last three seasons as the Packers offensive coordinator. He began his coaching career in 2003 at UC Davis as an assistant linebackers coach before moving in 2003 to Stanford, where he worked as an offensive and defensive assistant to the coordinators through 2004, then as a specialists coach and recruiting coordinator. He made his first venture into the NFL in 2006 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers working as their offensive quality control coach. In 2008 he moved to the Buffalo Bills as their offensive quality control coach before heading back to college where he was Syracuse’s passing game coordinator, quarterbacks, and tight end coach in 2010, then promoted from passing game coordinator to offensive coordinator for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2013, he returned to the Bills as their offensive coordinator. In 2015 and 2016, he served as the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterbacks coach, before adding offensive coordinator duties during the 2016 season. He moved to the Packers in 2019.

The 2022 head coach carousel includes nine teams looking to fill a vacancy, including the Miami Dolphins replacing Brian Flores. The Broncos’ hiring of Hackett is the first of those vacancies to be filled. Miami was not believed to have Hackett on their list of candidates, with no reports of an interview request being submitted for him.

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was believed to be high on the Broncos’ candidate list, but was passed over for Hackett. The Dolphins are also believed to be interested in Quinn. Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is rumored to be the leader to fill the Dolphins’ vacancy.

Last year, the Broncos were considered among the favorites to acquire quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the Packers as the two sides saw their relationship deteriorate. Now, a year later, it is thought Rodgers could decide it is time for him to move to a new team, and the Broncos may have positioned themselves well to entice Rodgers with the hire of Hackett.

For more on the Broncos and the hire of Hackett, check out Mile High Report.

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GameDay 44: Lineups, Betting Odds for Golden Knights at Panthers

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After spending the past 11 days on the road, the Florida Panthers are back home in sunny South Florida.

It was a trip full of adventure, from dog sledding in Bamff to checking out the sights of Seattle to trying to stay indoors as much as possible in the frozen tundra of Winnipeg.

”It’s really cold here,” Mason Marchment said after scoring two goals and assisting on another in Florida’s 5-3 win over Winnipeg on Tuesday night. “It will be nice to get outside, get some sun. It’ll also be nice to be able to get back out in front of our fans and that will be huge.”

The Panthers also won three of the five games which was the reason they went west in the first place.

For a team that embarked on this road trip just a game over .500 away from home, well, that’s a bit of an improvement.

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Sure, 3-2 isn’t an earth-shattering record especially for a team the caliber of the Panthers.

Yet considering this was the longest road trip of the season — the Panthers flew an estimated 5,500 miles on six seperate flights — that’s not too bad.

Now the Panthers are back in the comforts of home, a place they have a league-best 21 wins with just three losses.

The Panthers now face a bigger challenge than they faced on their five-game western swing as the Vegas Golden Knights come to Sunrise.

It’s well-known in hockey circles that the first home game coming off a long road trip is usually a team’s worst. The legs are a little rubbery, their timing off.

And Vegas is now running on east coast time having lost in overtime at Carolina on Tuesday.

While the Panthers were flying home from Mannitoba on Wednesday, the Golden Knights were already basking in the sun having landed in Fort Lauderdale a few hours after losing in Raleigh.

Still, having a team like Vegas in town could shake the Panthers out of their jetlag.

Pete DeBoer’s team again leads the Pacific Division and is one of the betting favorites to challenge for the Stanley Cup.

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The Panthers, for the most part, have been up to the challenge when it comes to playing the best teams in the league — especially at home.

Florida has beaten the likes of Tampa Bay, Carolina, the Rangers, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Washington, etc. The Panthers’ three home losses have come, believe it or not, to the expansion Kraken, Ottawa and Los Angeles.

Vegas is not the kind of team that will sneak up on the Panthers. They know what is waiting for them come Thursday night.

KNIGHT TIME

Vegas has had Florida influencers since its very start when Gerard Gallant took over as coach and the Panthers gave up two players — Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith — in the 2017 expansion draft.

Since then, Gallant was fired and replaced by DeBoer and the team added Evgenii Dadonov this past offseason.

This will be Dadonov’s first return to Sunrise since the Panthers let him walk to Ottawa as a free agent in 2020.

Smith is now in the final year of the five-year contract he signed with the Panthers, the $25 million deal Dale Tallon did not want to pay hence the reason he went to Vegas in the first place.

In his six games against the Panthers since, Smith has reminded Florida of its decision in a big way, scoring four goals with seven points. He went onto the Covid list Monday and did not play Tuesday in Carolina.

Marchessault is expected to play — and he has two goals and eight points in six games against his former team.

— After flying on Wednesday and having played the past two games, don’t be surprised to see Sergei Bobrovsky get the night off Thursday.

With the Panthers playing three games in a four-day span before their extended All-Star break, Florida will need to use Spencer Knight and would like him to feel like he is in a bit of a rhythm.

Thursday could be that opportunity.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP

23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 98 Maxim Mamin

11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 10 Anthony Duclair

17 Mason Marchment  // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart

94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 74 Owen Tippett

52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad

62 Brandon Montour // 7 Radko Gudas

22 Chase Priskie // 32 Lucas Carlsson

30 Spencer Knight

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratched: Joe Thornton, Frank Vatrano

Taxi squad: Matt Kiersted, Aleksi Heponiemi

Injured: Noel Acciari (LTIR), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Olli Juolevi (IR), Patric Hornqvist  (d2d)

Covid Protocol: Jonas Johansson, Gus Forsling

PROJECTED VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS LINEUP

63 Evgenii Dadonov // 20 Chandler Stephenson // 61 Mark Stone

22 Mark Amadio // 71 William Karlsson // 81 Jonathan Marchessault

28 Will Carrier // 10 Nicolas Roy // 26 Mattias Janmark

21 Brett Howden // 41 Nolan Patrick // 55 Keegan Kolesar

14 Nicolas Hague // 7 Alex Pietrangelo

27 Shea Theodore // 2 Zach Whitecloud

3 Brayden McNabb // 52 Dylan Coghlan

90 Robin Lehner

39 Lauren Brossoit

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